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Some years ago at Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault, I first heard the concept of “third force.” This morning as I read the headlines about the “total mess” at the Iowa caucuses last night, my own assessment of the situation arose. I’m not sure it’s accurate in this case, but I want to try and float it here as an example – primarily, I suppose, to keep my optimism functioning.

The concept of third force – simply put – is threefold. In a situation there is an affirming force and a denying force (not always a culprit but somehow in opposition to the affirming force whose task is to move along whatever one is considering). To “solve” the situation, we hope for a “new arising” which is so called because of the need sometimes to struggle with what is in order to come to what will be. Some could say that there are too many good Democratic candidates for President of the United States. For awhile that might have been seen as a good thing (affirming force) since, if they had not had some credibility, they would have been out of the race before now. Last night, in Iowa however, the caucus process became “a mess” (denying) because of several factors, among them 1. the new rules for caucusing, 2. the fact that there could only be two rounds of choice for a caucus and even 3. The fact that there are too many good candidates still in the race!! (Question: Can a situation be both affirming and denying???)

We will have to wait for the new arising before this situation is resolved. Meanwhile I’ll have to return to my wisdom school notes for a better or easier example. My only other option is to trust that there is a possible outcome when too many “goods” seem to muck up the machinery, necessitating a whole new answer to the process!